MEXICO CITY – The Mexican government awarded a long-awaited license to Multivision, marking the last step in the paybox’s tortuous road to offering direct-to-home (DTH) TV.

Multivision, a partner in Hughes-backed satcaster Galaxy Latin America, had been given special permission to offer its DirecTV service from early November with the condition that it would not charge subscription fees until a full license was awarded.

Multivision execs say they were ready to roll the service in April, but the launch was kept on hold while the U.S. and Mexican governments negotiated the protocol of a bilateral agreement on satellite usage that covered DTH services.

Once the protocol was signed on Nov. 8, the company had to wait while the Communications Secretariat came up with a license allowing the paybox to offer DTH services from a foreign-owned satellite – in this case, Hughes’ G-III bird.

Multivision sources said 20,000 subscriptions have been sold, with another 10,000 customers awaiting connection. This gives DirecTV a jump on rival service Sky – backed in Mexico by Televisa, News Corp. and TCI Intl. – which expects to roll out next week.

Tuesday’s licensing also allows Multivision to start its 18-channel pay-per-view service, though some deals with the major studios have still to be completed.

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